WTF Old Age?

I haven’t written for a while and I am sad to report that I seldom get 10,000 steps these days. When I got a night job, it all fell apart. And so did I, apparently. I just couldn’t get used to the flip flop in my circadian rhythms and stopped doing everything. No more walking, no yoga, no meditation… just work and sleep. For added fun, I went back to school for my masters too. That wasn’t my idea. It’s a job requirement. So now it’s work, study, write papers, sleep. I gained 10 pounds and I am always tired. I put in for a day job, which I got last week! A big yay for me… however I have to straddle both days and nights for a while until they fill my night position. A big boo for me. And quality of life deteriorates…

Yesterday, as I was driving from work (days) to school (nights) my heart started to flutter. Hmmm…. I thought. But I was late for class, so I kept driving, of course. The flutters didn’t stop. I got to school and my heart’s doing cartwheels in my chest. Huh.

Eventually, I told my friend in class. It was a room full of nurses. They drove me to the ER, where I was put on a monitor and all the necessary tests were done. Since I’m a nurse too, I laid on the bed and watched the monitor. I saw a bunch of PACs. Premature Atrial Contractions. I was happy to see them, given the alternatives. PACs are known in the cardiac world for being mostly benign. Whew… right? But my inquiring mind wants to know… what triggered them to start and why weren’t they stopping?

They finally stopped around 1:00 am, but now I have to figure out what’s happening. Of course, I’ll follow up with my doctor, but I need to figure out what’s going on in my life. What made my heart want to throw PACs like it was throwing a party?

Too much caffeine? Not enough sleep? No exercise? Bad diet? Old age?

I don’t have the answer. But I remember last year, when I was walking 10,000 steps a day. I felt healthy and strong, and full of energy. And now I don’t. I know things start to go when people get old, and I’m 62. But I don’t think 62 is old. Is it?

It doesn’t feel old. Or at least it didn’t, until last night. Maybe, just maybe… I should take a minute to assess reality. Am I too old to work days and nights and go to school in between? Do I just need to back off a little, return to my walking, put my health first for a while and figure out how to make my life less crazy?

Things to think about this morning. No answers yet, but this is definitely a crossroad.


An Unprocessed Life

img_1353So, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I’m still getting those 10,000 steps most days. Not a lot of leisurely strolls, sunrises and sunsets anymore, because of a new job, but this job keeps me walking. If I am mindful about it, I can get 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs while I’m at work. Not as esoteric, but practical.

Lately, I’ve been trying to address nutrition in addition to getting 10,000 steps a day. It’s got to be addressed. God knows, I love a good Paula’s donut as much as anyone, but I’ve got to clean up my act and get on board with a healthy life plan.

Luckily there are many books, websites and resources that are helping me on my new journey.

Here are a few of the books I’ve been reading:

Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman. This book outlines a healthy eating plan that eliminates processed foods, dairy, gluten, and other unhealthy foods and fats. He makes the case for eating good fats, such as eggs, nuts, avocados, coconut oil and others, and also getting plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. He explains the science behind this approach.

As someone who has wandered down the fat-free path more than once, eating more healthy fats sounds yummy to me. Dr. Hyman also proposes that processed foods fall way short on nutrition that our bodies need and should be replaced by cooking at home with fresh, whole ingredients.

Acknowledging that home cooking can be challenging in many different ways, he also offers a companion cookbook, The Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook. I have tried many of his recipes and they are easy, for the most part, and taste really good. I recommend the Asian Ginger Shrimp with Creamy Almond Dipping Sauce on page 315. It’s really delicious and quick to put together.

The End of Alzheimer’s by Dr. Dale Bredesen. This book has just recently come out. It contains groundbreaking research on reversing Alzheimer’s Disease. Until now, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has been basically a death sentence. A relentless progressive cognitive decline with no hope of cure. But, Dr. Bredesen’s study did reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s for 9 out of 10 of the patients that he put on his protocol.

The protocol is a multi-pronged approach, addressing nutrition, exercise, hormone balance, treating underlying conditions and diseases, among many things. Truthfully, I am only midway through the book right now, wading through the science, but already I can see that there are things we can take from this research to apply now, preventatively.

Dr. Bredesen addressed nutrition with his patients by eliminating all processed foods, all sugar, all grains. It’s basically just vegetables, some low sugar fruits, low-mercury fish, some organic, grass fed meats. It’s a little spartan and hard to stick to, especially here in the land of processed, sugary everything. But I’m trying it in the interest of prevention. He also recommends yoga, meditation and 30 minutes of exercise 4 days a week. I will try to add those as much as I can.

I’m 61. I don’t have a diagnosis of Alzheimers, thank God, but I’ve noticed the cogs slipping every so slightly as I age. I search for words that used to effortlessly flow, once in a while I leave pots boiling on the stove, and I frequently stand in rooms trying to remember why I went there. It makes sense to me to try to preserve what I’ve got, and maybe even improve a little. You can find Dr. Bredesen’s protocol here.

In the interest of pursuing an unprocessed life, I also came across the Eating Rules October Unprocessed Challenge. Andrew Wilder started his Eating Rules website and October Unprocessed Challenge many years ago. His website has grown to include recipes, guest bloggers, resources, menus, and support. There’s also a list of unprocessed choices at well known restaurants. I sign up every year for the challenge.

Andrew asks that everyone who accepts the challenge give up unprocessed food just for the month of October. The accompanying October Unprocessed public Facebook page is a busy place of cameraderie, support and recipe sharing for those that take the pledge.

So, that’s where I’m at right now, getting nutrition under control, continuing to get 10,000 steps even if it is at work instead of out in nature, and just generally trying to be proactive about my health as I age. We get older no matter what we do, so why not try to be the best we can be?



Well, it’s here

It’s January 9th and we are in the middle of a really cold, snowy winter. I’ve already been stranded once trying to get home from work in a blizzard, so all in all, just a typical crappy scenario for walking outside

Here are some ways I am trying to get my 10,000 steps.

Walking in my basement. It’s not as boring as it sounds. Well, maybe just a little, but I have an open floor plan and it’s a relatively cheerful and happy place, so an hour of walking to pumped up jams isn’t bad. It’s an hour I would have spent sitting in front of the TV in a cabin fever induced coma, so already it’s better.

Walking in malls. That’s if I can drive somewhere through the snow. Lots of people walk at the mall. So, on days when I want a little company and a change of scenery, that’s where I go. Plus, window shopping is fun, too.

Parking far away and building steps into my day. This does help. Taking the stairs at work, parking as far as possible from the grocery store… it all helps.

Walking outside is still an option when it’s sunny, and the roads are plowed. I try to get out there. They say there is no cold weather, only inadequate clothing, so I’m taking that to heart and breaking out the thermals.

I’ve also tried snow shoeing which is a very strenuous way to get steps, but it’s a lot of fun.

The one thing I haven’t done is go to the gym, and there is a good reason for that. I am paring down expenses, and at $60 a month, it’s no longer an option. And it doesn’t need to be. I’m getting my steps most days, just doing what I’m doing.

So, all in all, I’m passing the time, getting steps and waiting for Spring.

The people on the road

img_0894When I’m out there on the road everyday, doing my steps, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people that I see everyday. In the morning, there’s an older guy on his touring bike, all decked out in a cool Tour de France uniform and helmet. He always says “good morning” as he whips by on his way up the hill.

Some days there are more Tour de France bikers. Our hills are grueling and probably great training terrain.

There are various people with dogs. The tall, thin woman who looks like her tall, thin greyhound. The puppy trainer. The elderly couple who take turns walking their tiny frou-frou dog.

All these faces are starting to look familiar, as I’m sure my face is. There’s a guy in my neighborhood who walks everyday, and he has been doing that for years. We’ve always referred to him as the “Walking Guy”. On any given day, at any given time, he can be found somewhere in a ten mile radius, just walking along. Sun, rain, snow, it doesn’t matter. He’s out there.

Recently, our paths crossed on the road, and I finally, for the first time, said something to him besides, “Hi”.

I asked him how far he walks in a day. The answer was seven miles. Seven miles! No wonder he’s always walking.

He said he doesn’t know why he chose that particular distance, but he’s done it every day since he retired. I was so inspired by that. I was beginning to feel that I was a little bit nuts for trying to walk 10,000 steps, or roughly 4 miles a day. It was really nice to finally connect with Walking Guy, and to find out that he walks for the sheer joy of it, too.

I continued on that day with a renewed inspiration and a new sense of camaraderie. But next time I see Walking Guy out there on the road, I’m going to remember to ask him his name.

Aging backward is in the eye of the beholder

imageWell, here’s something I didn’t expect. I’ve been doing these steps for a while now. I’ve been eating healthier, losing weight, and even using some pretty expensive facial products. All positive improvements, and all designed to help me age backwards. Yes, that’s right. I just read a new buzz phrase, and it’s captured my interest. Can we really age backwards? I’ve kind of been killing myself trying lately.

I thought I was making some progress, too. Rolling back the years and slowing the inevitable progression of time.

Let me tell you a story. I went to the YMCA this morning at my usual crack of dawn, did 3 miles on the track, and swam (doggy paddled) for a little while. I was relaxing in the hot tub, when the elderly gentleman next to me struck up a conversation. We were talking about age, and he said, “So, what are you, 65?”

“Ummm. No?” I replied, a little huffily. “I’m 60.”

And suddenly, all the hard work and maintenance I’ve been doing, seemed to dribble away like so much hot air out of an old balloon.

I look 5 years older than I am? What the hell??

Needless to say, I went to work in a giant funk. What is the purpose of trying to age backward when it appears that I’m aging faster?

An existential crisis for sure. I moped all day about it. But, tonight I’m finally coming to grips with it. I’ve decided that a) the elderly gentleman probably had major cataracts and couldn’t see me properly or b) maybe I used to look 70 and this is an improvement, or c) why do I care what someone else thinks anyway? I thought he was 80. Maybe he was really 75. It’s all relative.

I’m going to continue my journey. With any luck, I’ll still look 65 ten years from now. Or, I can stop being fixated on a number. Yes, I like that approach best of all.

Photo by Andrew John Manzella

temporarily sidelined

Poor little sneakers worked hard.

Well, here I am with a strained knee. Of course, I haven’t been to a doctor or anything, but the fact that I can’t bend my left knee without excruciating pain and I’m walking like Festus from Gunsmoke leads me to believe that I have an “over-use” injury from my hike yesterday.

Lessons to be learned from this include: Don’t participate in a hike unless you have trained for the distance and the skill level. Don’t push your aging body to do things you’re not ready for unless you want an injury. Know when to stop.

My remedies include a knee brace and a nightly cup of warm turmeric milk. Maybe it works, maybe it’s placebo, but it makes me feel better.

I am woefully behind in steps today, but I’m willing to make the concession that I might have to sit this one out. The one thing I should not do is keep on pushing through pain. So, I am feeling sad that I don’t have 10,000 steps today, but I am also feeling like I am making good sense by resting my knee.

10,000 steps a day is something I want to do for the rest of my life, but if there are times when I can’t or shouldn’t, that is okay too. I’ll just pick it back up when I can. By taking care of myself today, I live to hike again.

Photo by DLM